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Old 09-27-2012, 08:24 AM   #1
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Lost at Sea

Just finished a book that is probably familiar to many of you PNW guys. It is Lost at Sea by Patrick Dillon. It certainly brought out the dangers of the Bering Sea fishing and crabbing.

Eric has probably read it, but if not I think he would find it interesting. There is a large part devoted to stability of boats. The small town of Anacortes suffered a devistating blow when they lost 14 men at one time from the community. It affected the whole community. I had a little connection with the town as back in the 60s I bought many a car load of plywood from mills around there.

For any fans of the Deadliest Catch TV show on the Discovery Channel, the show doesn't come near showing the extent of the real danger out there.
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Old 09-27-2012, 08:36 AM   #2
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Just finished a book that is probably familiar to many of you PNW guys. It is Lost at Sea by Patrick Dillon. It certainly brought out the dangers of the Bering Sea fishing and crabbing.

Eric has probably read it, but if not I think he would find it interesting. There is a large part devoted to stability of boats. The small town of Anacortes suffered a devistating blow when they lost 14 men at one time from the community. It affected the whole community. I had a little connection with the town as back in the 60s I bought many a car load of plywood from mills around there.

For any fans of the Deadliest Catch TV show on the Discovery Channel, the show doesn't come near showing the extent of the real danger out there.
Having been there right along side of them...AND having to fly in unbelievable conditions to look for missing crab boatsrews...the show is pretty accurate. A bunch of guys willing to risk life and limb for money...pretty simple concept.

I became friendly with one of the crabbers out of Kodiak....we salmon fished when he was in port. He showed me his boat, safety equipment and related how too many of his "crabber friends" were "cowboys." Again...the show captures that pretty well.

Often when the crabbers stay too long on the grounds while the smart captains and USCG cutters are taking refuge behind some island...there's always a few that get caught in the fury of the Bering Sea.
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Old 09-27-2012, 08:57 AM   #3
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A friend, neighbor, and distant relative of mine, the late Judge Bob Moon, had developed a keen interest in the show. Bob being the kind of judge that would do some alternative sentencing if he thought the convicted had a good chance of being saved, took an interest in the young man having legal problems back in Seattle. He was a crewman on Capt. Sig Hansen's Northwestern. Bob wrote him some letters, and finally a poem that hangs in the Northwestern's pilot house. It seems the crewman kind of "slipped" again, and wound up in prison.

Bob was a different kind of judge. He was a humanitarian, a poet, and a great bow hunter. Living so closely with the same last name we received many of each other's calls. I can tell you that he received calls at all hours from people trying to get their lives together. Bob was hoping to get out to meet everyone. Too bad that his life was cut short by a heart attack.
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Old 09-27-2012, 10:47 AM   #4
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These guys are hard working cowboys for sure. When not crabbing these boats do other things.
The boat was being used as a tender collecting salmon from the seiners. Using a big fish vacuum to suck up the salmon.
I met up with the Time Bandit on a trip once.
The second pic is of when they gave me a nice silver salmon in trade for some shrimp.

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Old 09-27-2012, 01:48 PM   #5
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I read the book a number of years ago. The loss of the A-boats was a real blow to the Anacortes fishing community and is still talked about.
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Old 09-27-2012, 02:44 PM   #6
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Never verified it but I did have some actual experience with one...

Many old timers said a bunch of crabbers bought up cheap oil patch boats from the gulf when the oil bust happened in the 80's...they were shallow draft with a 100 foot working deck to accomodate oil pipe and 2 cranes mounted midship to hoist pipe and supplies in the oil patch. perfect they thought for stacking hundreds of crab pots on deck and the cranes to handle them. The deal was they didn't carry all the fuel supply the boats normally did in the gulf and low center of gravity pipes on deck...they carried a bunch of ice covered crab pots stacked high on deck and more than a few rolled in the 90's up in the Bering Sea....
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Old 09-27-2012, 03:45 PM   #7
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My son spent several years in the Bering Sea.

Opillio crab on the Fierce Allegiance (one of the original DC boats). Anyone familiar with Dutch Harbor will recognize the view out the wheel house window.


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Old 09-27-2012, 03:55 PM   #8
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Many old timers said a bunch of crabbers bought up cheap oil patch boats from the gulf when the oil bust happened in the 80's...
A bunch of the Tidewater mud boats found their way to Seattle and Dutch. There are still a few around as well as a few more of the USN FS freighters that were used as inter-island transports in the Pacific during WW2.

The ones I like are the power scows and their various conversions.

There is a lot of maritime history on the docks around Lake Union.
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Old 09-27-2012, 09:13 PM   #9
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I believe the two A-boats that sank and are the subject of the book Lost at Sea were purpose-built in Anacortes.
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Old 09-27-2012, 09:18 PM   #10
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I believe the two A-boats that sank and are the subject of the book Lost at Sea were purpose-built in Anacortes.
True...the documentary I saw on them I believe said they weren't built to spec or they were highly modified...not sure as it's been awhile...

If they were altered or not built to spec...they would have had problems like the mud boats described too...
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Old 09-27-2012, 09:32 PM   #11
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If I recall the book properly the cause of the rollovers was the extreme overloading of pots. I do not recall that the boats themselves were determined to be at fault, but it's been a long time since I've read it.
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Old 09-27-2012, 10:07 PM   #12
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If I recall the book properly the cause of the rollovers was the extreme overloading of pots. I do not recall that the boats themselves were determined to be at fault, but it's been a long time since I've read it.
That is correct, Marin. They were overloaded, and they were also cross tanked. That is a method of moving fuel around to try and balance the load. They think the double hull tanks in the bottom were empty thus raising the center of gravity. I think the term "cowboy" has been used. That well describes how some of the boats are run. Balancing by feel. They were also 56 tons over specs when built. They were twice modified for trawling adding tons more equipment. The marine architect recalculated stability, but they still had the same 56 ton error in the calculations. A new incline test was not done. The boot stripe was raised a foot thus not being able to tell when they were overloaded.

The A Boats were state of the art for 1983. No one expected them to turn turtle, but 2 did almost simultaneously.

A very interesting book.
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Old 09-27-2012, 10:19 PM   #13
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The A Boats were state of the art for 1983. No one expected them to turn turtle, but 2 did almost simultaneously.
And in very calm water.
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Old 09-28-2012, 06:48 AM   #14
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same thing has happened here on the East Coast with a few clammers...one quite famous case I was the USCG duty officer for, The boat rolled in mild conditions, 4 men lost, survival suits still in their bags stowed in the wheelhouse...no mayday.

investigation showed scattered cages meaning they were on deck instead of the wet hold...sad....that error was fatal...very similar to crab pots improperly stowed.
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Old 09-28-2012, 10:02 AM   #15
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I became friendly with one of the crabbers out of Kodiak....we salmon fished when he was in port. He showed me his boat, safety equipment and related how too many of his "crabber friends" were "cowboys." Again...the show captures that pretty well
Agreed. The show does cover what happens on deck. I am a fan of the show. What I have not seen is anything about the dangers of the actual boats. I think a lot of young men seeking fortune and adventure have unknowingly signed on to ill fated boats. It is a combination of things---bad design, bad maintenance, overloading, too many risks, etc. They think as long as they watch out for themselves it will be enough. It isn't.

The show is a little romanticized. I think they should show the the fatality numbers. We had an unsuspecting kid from our community go out there. He didn't come back.

A friend of mine owns a rope manufacturing company that has made a lot of the polypropylene rope that is used on the crab pots. He loves to go out there "checking" on things.

Chip, it looks as if your son found a good boat. He must be very tough. Glad he made it through OK.
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Old 09-28-2012, 10:44 AM   #16
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So many of the "ill fated" commercial fishermen on the East Coast have set to sea in boats that should have been in dry dock.

The last one I helped keep afloat had 3 wooden bungs smeared with caulk driven into at least 1" dia holes a few inches below the "unloaded" waterline...FROM THE INSIDE!!!!....needless to say the operator was all pissed off the USCG made him stay in port after they discovered the oil slick around him from the forward bilge pump contents. They could clearly see that his lazarette was waist deep in water...and yet he was determined to go 50 miles out day scalloping (I think).
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Old 09-28-2012, 12:43 PM   #17
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There are about dozen 60+ ft commercial trawlers out of Everett that go up to Alaska each year in May/June and come back late September/early October. Many of the boats are second/third generation. All the boats that I know of have emergency rafts and beacons. Most have survival suits and/or dry suits but they do not use them as they restrict movement and the olds salts make fun of them. Over the years several boats have sunk.

Most of them off load to a larger ship/trawler with a vacuum/sucker upper. Right now they are changing/gearing up for the silvers in the Puget Sound, which they off load to a larger ship/trawler. Next is crab as some are loading the crab pots. Most boats work year around. The Everett commercial loading and unloading dock is in front of our boat. There is a 100+ like the Time Bandit that unloads. Interesting to watch them dock/maneuver and load/unload. Lucky the dock ramp sticks out which sort of protect our boat as many put the bow up against the dock and thrust the stern over.

Many of the commercial trawlers are barely hanging on. Over the years the commercial have declines as they use to take up two full docks, now they take up one and some have been converted to pleasure. Trawler that have been converted to pleasure the water line might come up several feet, so the stability might be questionable.


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Old 09-28-2012, 12:43 PM   #18
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And here you guys are worried about the casual weekend boater.
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Old 09-28-2012, 02:35 PM   #19
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And here you guys are worried about the casual weekend boater.
Who is worried???
and about what?????
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Old 09-28-2012, 10:32 PM   #20
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So with all this talk of bad boats, cowboy skippers and rough seas you can imagine my horror when our daughter anounced that she was going to Alaska to work on a fish boat for the summer between her junior and senior year in college. Naive, headstrong and fashion model she had me scared to death.

Thank goodness she went to work on a 300-400 foot processor where she matured and learned about life. Her first letter home stated "there doesn't appear to be too much on board in the way of employee recreation facilities."
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